courtesy Rebecca C. WaldenFifteen days after my 39th birthday, a number flashed on my bathroom scale, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since a third trimester of pregnancy.
It confirmed what a family picture from that morning had told me already: I was the largest I’d ever been—obese by body fat standards—and that one go-to outfit I wore to try to hide the excess? I was only fooling myself.
Forget that I couldn’t climb stairs without feeling winded. Or that I’d become so self-conscious that I was turning down social invitations. Something had to give.
So I ate (better)
courtesy Rebecca C. WaldenHell hath no fury like a hungry gastronome. For this lifestyle change to have any staying power, food had to come first. While I thought I already made healthy choices (most of the time), an honest inventory of the kitchen left much to be desired. Obvious changes aside (goodbye confectioner’s sugar, hello Chia seeds), I didn’t stop there.
Around my midsection, I was sporting the very problem that happens when one estimates portion size. So I bought an extra set of measuring cups, and every day, I work them harder than I do the percolator. When I’m not where I can measure, I use these portion control tricks.
As for what to put in them, there was legit glee when I learned that dairy isn’t off limits. Hello comfort food! That helped me to brave new recipes centered on superfoods, and jump started my weight loss. With these fat-releasing foods rounding out my menus, I shed the first 10 pounds in 30 days.
I also exercised (often)
courtesy Rebecca C. WaldenFitness and fun are not mutually exclusive. I just needed to mix it up.
Leaving my long favored elliptical behind, I gave Body Pump a try. As intimidating as it first seemed, I found myself looking forward to the next class. A few weeks in and I wondered why I’d waited so long.
I began prioritizing exercise around work and family commitments. Instead of resenting it, I craved it—still do. With instructors that keep my form on point, contagiously upbeat music mixes, and familiar folks to high five after a grueling set, these 60-minute segments routinely shatter my inner “I can’t.”
By early March, I could see baby biceps in the bathroom mirror. Once the initial weight loss went from 10 to 20 pounds, I could shop my closet, and I wanted more. So I kept showing up. I was the new kid in kickboxing, then Zumba, and eventually spin—all exercise classes known to torch calories. More often than not, I was the slowest, least coordinated person in the room. But at 25 pounds down and counting, I didn’t care.
Vacation was no excuse to slouch. Instead of treating spring break as license to eat and drink my way through the entire week, I consumed as I would at home, save one splurge evening. And for that, I worked, sneaking in mountain climbers and other zero-equipment exercises that can transform your body.
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And I tracked (honestly)
courtesy Rebecca C. WaldenFor the fourth time in as many years, I downloaded My Fitness Pal and learned how to use it correctly. Food and exercise journaling has demystified so much about how to lose weight. It remains a favorite tool now that I’m learning how to maintain weight loss.
From the beginning, I also kept my weekly weight loss goal to a realistic 1 pound per week.
With every food or beverage entry, I estimated calories liberally. For exercise, I did the reverse. An unnecessary step to some, but my journey was different. This wasn’t just an effort to lose weight. For long-term success, I needed to make the mental leap away from dieting as a means to an end and instead, embrace this as a lifestyle change for good.
Throughout the process and still now, these margins of error keep me on track.
By mid-April, I’d lost 30-plus pounds, and logged enough entries to create trend data. The stats blew away every dietary bias I’d ever believed. When I upped my protein game, stopped fearing carbs, and started embracing healthy fats, good things happened, and fast.
I’m now 219 days in, four months shy of my 40th birthday, and in the best physical shape of my adult life.
I found powerful motivation
courtesy Rebecca C. WaldenYou know that saying mind over matter? It can make the difference between loathing and loving your workout. There are times when I’m tired or distracted, and not particularly in the mood to slog through any given sweat session—days when the 10-pound weight might as well weigh 100. Blame it on the endorphins, but in those moments I come up with a goal—a feat just this side of ridiculous to work towards—and it helps me finish the set with all I have left.
When I first saw real progress (and stepped into smaller clothing), I was reluctant to trust it. Nothing more than vanity sizing run amok. How much could my body possibly have changed? Only one way to know for sure, and it was buried deep in the Once Upon a Time part of my closet. A textile truth serum in an unforgiving cut. Yes, I’m talking about my wedding dress.
Did I dare?
Right through every last kettle bell swing and lunge squat, every power press and dead lift, and every morning when I felt like chucking the alarm into the wall instead of getting up and after it. Right up to the day last week when I was able to twirl around in a certain gown and celebrate the goal achieved. Wedding dress challenge done and won.
Irreverent focus on fitness aside, I’ve finally come to understand two things. There is no finish line. And a little levity keeps things interesting. With that in mind, I’m now drawing inspiration from the black pants made iconic by Olivia Newton John. Halloween is less than three months out, and tight pants aren’t just for Jimmy Fallon.